Stories can be slippery devils! Sometimes an early spark of an idea can shift, turn and evolve in ways you never expect. That’s how it was with my latest project, currently titled The Death of Goldilocks. It came to me during the winter of 09/10 when we had some very severe temperatures and heavy snowfall. I was working in Newcastle at the time, getting the train up and down through dark snow-covered landscapes that seemed to be forever hidden from sunlight. I was working in a basement so my hours of daily sunlight hardly registered. My world was depressingly dark and covered in ice and snow and it’s no surprise that this was a particularly unhappy time for me! The winter was bleak and it seemed as if it might never end. One night, after a long day without natural light at work, as I trudged back from the train to my car to defrost it I pondered that thought: What if this winter didn’t end? What if the sun disappeared and left us to the snow and ice?
So the germ of an idea formed and grew into a story. But that story was very different to the one I’ve just finished, five years later. It began as an adult tale, the first-person story of Peter, a bitter man who had just killed his partner and was about to kill himself when a world-changing event took place, halting his plans. I explored this version of the story, writing over 100 pages before it stalled and froze over. I liked the ideas and themes in the story but I just didn’t like Peter enough to want to spend any more time with him. Throughout the story he was learning to live (and love) again, but he’d started from such a dark place, and he took so long to recover that I felt the story would be lost behind the reader’s dislike for this pathetic man. So I put it aside and moved on to other things.
But the idea persisted and, when the temperatures dropped again, I returned to it once more. This time Peter was excised from the story and I shifted the focus to two younger protagonists. Things seemed to be working. Now the story, while still very dark and bleak, had some hope at its core. Over the next couple of years I kept coming back to Goldilocks in between other commitments, chipping away at it. Then in 2014 I decided it was time to finish the story and I pushed to complete the first draft by winter. Since then I’ve completed draft’s 2 and 3, and I’m ready to let it go. I’m happy with the story, it tells the tale I set out to tell back in early 2010, but in a different way. The terrible events are the same, but we see them through more innocent eyes, which manages to make them all the more terrifying. I’m hopeful that The Death of Goldilocks will find a publisher, but nothing is certain. My story might take another five years to defrost.